GAME REVIEW: Best Treehouse Ever

I backed this game on kickstarter earlier this year.  Games that have unusual and fun themes grab me.  I’m not into the whole miniatures thing, so when I saw this little card game about building your very own treehouse, it looked right up my alley.  And the price was right.

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Best Treehouse Ever is from Green Couch Games and plays from 2-4 players, takes about 20-30 minutes to play, and is for ages 8 and up.  This is scheduled to be released to the public this Friday on November 27th.  This is an early review.

In this small card drafting game, which takes exactly 3 rounds, players are building their very own treehouse, by placing various room of different colors on top of their tree.  This is a set collection game.  There are six different colors of rooms you will be able to build on your tree.  At the end of each round, you will get a chance to score points for each room in your treehouse, depending on the color.

And at the end of the game, bonus points are awarded for the majority of each of the six room types.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s how the game plays:

Each player starts with their own tree.

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They also get an acorn, which will act as their balance marker.

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You see, when you build a room in your treehouse, depending on which side of the tree you build it on, the tree will sway, making it unbalanced.  The acorn will help you keep track of this, so your tree won’t topple over.

Before the game begins, everyone gets a secret objective card.

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In order to score these points, players must match the color configuration of what their card shows, to rooms in their treehouse.  For example, in the card shown above, if you had a blue room, with a yellow room to the right of it, and a red room to the right of that, you will be awarded 3 points at the end of the game.

Here is how a round goes:

Each player is dealt six room cards.

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They will select a card and place it face down in front of them, then pass the rest of the cards to the player on their left (clockwise).

Everyone reveals their card and places it in their tree.  Remember, when you place your room card, move the acorn marker to either the left or the right, depending on where you placed the room.

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(If the acorn is all the way to the left or the right, you can no longer place it on that side until you balance out your tree)

Then players will look at the cards that were passed to them from the player on their right, and choose another card to place in their treehouse.  Players will do this 5 times per round, which means at the most, 5 rooms will be built per round.

There are also placement rules.  The first time you place a room of a certain color, it can be next to any color.  But if you are placing a room color that you already have, then it MUST be touching a room of the same color.

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If at any point during the game you have closed a certain color off, then you won’t be able to play a room of that color for the rest of the game.  This means that it could be possible that you may not be able to place a room from the cards that you have in your hand.  If that’s the case, you must still select a card and place it face down.  Then when you reveal the card, it must be discarded.

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At the end of each round, players will score 1 point for each room.  But, before that, players have the chance to either help themselves get more points, or stop opponents from scoring rooms.  In turn order, players will select a bonus scoring card and place it on a room color in the scoring area.  It will either be a card that doubles a room’s points, or a card that will not allow that room to score.

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After these cards are placed, then each room will score (or not score).

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For example, in the picture above, blue rooms are not scored for that round.

Then the next round begins.  After the third scoring round, majority will be awarded for who has the most rooms in each color.  And finally, players will score points for any of their completed objectives.  Whoever has the most points is the winner.

After the game, a player’s treehouse will look something like this:

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This game comes in a tiny box, but it’s a surprisingly big game.  In a 4 player game, the entire table is covered with cards making up treehouses.  Pretty impressive for such a little game.

The reason I backed this one on kickstarter is because it looked so cute.  I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of depth to the game.  But there was surprisingly a lot to think about.  At least more than I thought there would be.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a deep strategy game, but it’s not trying to be.  This is meant to be a fun filler game, with some meaningful decisions to be made throughout.

The theme is terrific.  It really comes through.  I definitely felt like I was trying building a treehouse.  And the main reason for that is the artwork, which is adorably beautiful.  It really makes the game come to life.  Each room will add flavor to your treehouse.  I even spotted some movies references in some of the rooms.  The room cards definitely add a welcoming light touch and humor to the game.

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After the game is done, your treehouse will look so cool that you’ll want to show it off to your opponents.  It’s very fun.

The gameplay is fairly simple, but has a little bite to it.  I always like card drafting in games, and it’s a good fit for this design.  Trying to achieve those objective cards is not as easy as it looks.  In the games I’ve played, I have done it once.  I like the different strategies you can choose to do.  You can go for several colors of one room to score majority points at the end of the game, but then you risk having another player banning that room from scoring each round.  This forces you to balance all of the different rooms in your treehouse.  And you also have to be careful not to close off a room color, which I do all the time.  So while this is a simple game, it’s not always easy maintaining balance.  I feel this game has just enough strategy to be compelling not only to non-gamers, but for some hardcore gamers too.

Best Treehouse Ever is a fantastic production from Green Couch Games.  It’s so cool how a small box can contain a lot of game.  I love how everything is set up with cards.  Even the score track.

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This is not just another throwaway filler game.  It’s a great gateway game.  It’s a wonderful way to introduce card drafting, set collecting, and secret objectives to people.  It teaches kids how to carefully plan what they are making too.

Designer Scott Almes knew exactly what type of game he was making with this.  A simple, family game with some light strategy.  Well, he knocked it out of the park.  This is a very delightful game.  A word that I said constantly while playing this was “pleasant”.  This is a pleasant game.

If you’re looking for a fun family game that will introduce kids to some deeper strategies, or an involving filler game for your game night, you can’t go wrong with BEST TREEHOUSE EVER!

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